Archive for Matt Fehr

Saturday, October 13th, 2012

fa·nat·ic [fuh-nat-ik] noun 1. a person with an extreme and uncritical enthusiasm or zeal

As I am writing this post I am standing in a cramped metro train waiting to depart towards the East Falls Church station on the orange line. It is 1:04 AM, the car is reeking of urine and sweaty men and I’m not sure whether I’m dreaming or not but, something doesn’t feel quite right. I feel as if my one of my parents were severely injured in a car crash but, my father is next to me and my mother is waiting at home. I feel as if I’ve lost a dog but, I’ve never had one. I feel really hungover but, I haven’t drank an excess amount of alcohol.

There are few, if any, things in this world that compare to the loss of something that has value to you. You feel, at least for the short term, as if you will never recover and the world as you know it won’t ever be the same. In some cases loss is permanent but, from a day to day basis, loss usually doesn’t have affect you forever. You grow past whatever it was and move on. For people like me, however, loss is something that is forever permanent. You see, I’m what the field of athletic competition calls a “fanatic”, or “fan”, and my schema works much differently than the average being.

I’m the person who stands the entire game no matter the outcome. The person who wears his jersey to sleep and wears his team’s logo on every shirt he wears. The person who feels as if it’s his own personal fault for every negative outcome and that he could have done something to change it.

And when my hometown baseball team, who exceeded the expectations of everyone in baseball this year on their way to their first playoff appearance since 1933 and earned the best record in baseball, the Washington Nationals, gave up four runs in the top of the ninth to lose 9-7 in front of a rowdy hometown crowd (that I was a part of) in desperate need of positivity, I responded a lot worse than 95% of people.

Most people that follow sports teams, even remotely, would be sad and maybe even mad at an outcome such as the one I witnessed but, after several days, hours, and minutes they move on with their lives. It becomes something that happened in their lifespan and nothing more. It carries no weight other than that.

For people like me, it haunts them. It stares at them in the mirror and laughs whenever they fall. It follows them wherever they go and whatever they see. It teases them as soon as they think it’s gone.

And as I travel towards my destination I can already see that missed grounder by Ian Desmond that would have at least kept the lead at 7-6 in the train windows. I see the two walks given up by Drew Storen on questionable calls on the Jordan Zimmerman jersey worn by the guy in front of me. I see the absolutely terrifying solo home run that Tyler Clippard gave up to David Descalso to lead off the 8th in the reflection of the bar I’m holding on to.

No matter how many championships, division titles, MVP and Cy Young awards are won in my lifetime, I will be stalked by the memory of this loss. My kids will even see it in my eyes when it’s brought up in the future.

Does this mean I won’t revel in victory when the time comes? Of course not! My life will be completed when a Washington DC sports team finally irrigates the 21 year drought left by the 91 Redskins Super Bowl winning team (luckily enough I was born in 93). My job, until that happens, is to stay in good enough shape so that I don’t fall into cardiac arrest when the Nats, Caps, Wiz, or RG3s finally do so.

But until that day comes tonight’s loss will be as fresh in my mind as Dwayne Wade’s young Heat sweeping the Wizards in 05′, our first playoff appearance in a decade, or Gilbert Arenas missing the two free throws at home in Game 6 at home to allow Lebron James’ Cavs the first of three consecutive playoff series victories over Washington from 06′ to 08′, or every single Capitals’ season since Alex Ovechkin was drafted which ended in a ridiculously good record, with the exception of last year’s 7th seed, and heartbreak at the hands of a rival before reaching the Stanley Cup, or the abysmal Redskins-Seahawks playoff game in 07′, the only Redskins playoff game I have memory of, which featured a miraculous comeback by the Sons of Washington to start the fourth quarter followed by back to back pick sixes by Todd Collins after a missed Shawn Suisham field goal.

Those memories mock me every time I turn on ESPN and each time I open Sports Illustrated. And while the taunts of defeat, blown leads, and loss live on each day, I can’t help but think about why I do this to myself. Why do I set myself like this?

Because I’m a fan. And thats what fans do…

As negative as my feelings are and will be, I have to bring some positivity to the situation. Some light to the perennial darkness if you will.

On December 22, 2011, when Nats GM Mike Rizzo pulled off a trade that would send away four prospects in return for A’s left handed starter Gio Gonzalez I was ecstatic. Not only was he being added to young rotation that included two up-and-coming starters in phenom Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmerman, he was the final piece of the postseason puzzle. Through the draft and keen free agent signings the Nationals were on the cusp of contending in the playoffs throughout the 2010s and this trade finally made it realistic. My expectations around Christmas time were for ,at least, an 80 win season with maybe a wild-card spot given the change in playoff format. I would have been completely satisfied with 80 wins and no playoffs especially given the fact that we were going to shut down Strasburg early because of his Tommy-John surgery no matter what any pundits or fans had to say about it.

This team went on to win the National League East title with the best record in baseball and achieved the best road record simultaneously. Not only that but, they showed promise in every position they fielded including first time all-stars Bryce Harper, Desmond, and Strasburg who all were developed within the Nationals farm system. Their bullpen developed a strong set-up, closer combo in Clippard and Storen (minus tonight). They have three quality catchers on their roster with the young Wilson Ramos coming off his torn ACL injury which happened early in the season. Unless Strasburg’s arm falls off, Harper turns out to be 29 instead of 19, and Ryan Zimmerman is abducted by aliens this team will bring home a National League Pennant and World Series title before 2020. I guarantee it. I just pray the Mayans weren’t right.


by Matt Fehr

Monday, September 17th, 2012

NFL Picks Standings

Okay, we started one week late. But let’s just call that our “bye” week. Here are the First Pick Blog Staff standings after week 2. Included are everyone’s Monday Night Football pick as well.

Tied for 1st:

Ben Simpson, 8 correct picks: Buffalo, Indy, Carolina, Houston, Giants, Seattle, Pittsburgh, and Chargers

Monday Night Pick: Denver Broncos

Mujtaba Elgoodah, 8 correct picks: Same as Ben

Monday Night Pick: Denver Broncos

2nd Place

Brian Skinnell, 7 correct picks: Buffalo, Cincy, Giants, Houston, Pittsburgh, San Diego, and San Fran

Monday Night Pick: Denver Broncos

3rd Place

Matt Fehr, 6 correct picks: Cincy, Indy, Houston, Seattle, Pittsburgh, and San Fran

Monday Night Pick: Atlanta Falcons

Tied for 4th place

Alex Millon, 5 correct picks: Cincy, Houston, Giants, San Diego, and San Fran

Monday Night Pick: Atlanta Falcoons

Jimmy Luehrs, 5 correct picks: Cincy, Philly, Seattle, San Diego, and San Fran

Monday Night Pick: Denver Broncos


Sunday, September 16th, 2012

Sunday Night Baseball Diary: Braves sweep Nats’ with October right around the corner


I thought so. After our “brief” vacation, First Pick is back in black and on the attack. Like that? I thought it was catchy. Although not nearly as catchy as Mace’s celebratory BrettFavresque return to hip hop in 2004 .

Anyway, it is my belated honor to bring you the first of my many in-game diaries. I have been doing these since high school through my personal blog, The Sports Fehr, but, having decided to bring my talents to First Pick, it is now time to pop my diary cherry. I probably will get one of these done a week with no particular schedule in mind and they will vary in terms of the sports being covered but, seeing how democracy is kind of a big deal in this country (at least it was in the 18th and 19th century) I’m open to reader suggestions.

Tonight I will be covering the third game of the Braves/Nats’ series which will be broadcasted on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball at 8 PM ET. The Washington Nationals will send out their heir apparent ace Gio Gonzalez, a lefty who is in pursuit of his major league leading 20th win, and simultaneously look to win their 90th game of the season, a feat that hasn’t been accomplished since the Nats moved to DC from Montreal in 2005 and hasn’t been achieved since 1993 within the franchise. The Atlanta Braves counter with their own lefty, a sophomore in Mike Minor, a product of Vanderbilt University who looks to complete the sweep that his teammates began over friday night and saturday afternoon as they close in on the Nationals in the NL East pennant race.

Gonzalez-(W/L)=19-7, (ERA)=2.93, (WHIP)=1.13, (SO)=191

Minor- (W/L)= 8-10, (ERA)= 4.42, (WHIP)=1.2, (SO)=132

WSH Lineup= 1. Werth RF 2. Harper CF 3. Zimmerman 3B  4. LaRoche 1B  5. Desmond SS  6. Espinosa 2B  7. Moore LF  8. Suzuki C  9. Gonzalez P

ATL  Lineup= 1. Bourn CF 2. Johnson LF 3. Heyward RF  4. Jones 3B  5. Freeman 1B  6. Uggla 2b  7. Ross C  8. Simmons SS  9. Minor P


Lets get started shall we……

7:49- The first words uttered out Dan Shulman’s mouth were “Despite the loss of Stephen Strasburg…” Should i start a counter for the amount of time his name is mentioned. I think yes. At least they spent time describing the efficiency of the 2012 Nats offense.

7:52- I wish more people liked baseball because Baseball Tonight is the most in-depth, well-thought, and insightful (Yes I realize those are synonyms) look at an individual sport that ESPN offers. Olney+Kurkjian+Kruk+Larkin+Glanville= GOLD. Kicks the shit out NFL Live’s repetitiveness.

7:55- I’m going to try and eat my dinner in five minutes before the game starts. Time me.

8:00- Alright, I couldn’t finish. But you try to finish a plate of brisket, baked beans, and cole slaw in five minutes without savoring every bite. I doubt my mother could escape her Kansas City roots even if she was paid to. This is a woman who spends every night religiously watching the Royals play baseball on MLB Extra Innings and purchased season tickets at Arrowhead Stadium to see her Chiefs play when she got her first ever paycheck. I’ve learned a lot from my mother  but, one thing I will never take for granted is the lessons she’s taught me on loyalty/fanhood. Is fanhood a word? Whatever.

8:01- Strasburg’s name mentioned by Shulman twice in one sentence when trying to compliment Gonzalez’s performance this year. (3)

8:02- I feel like most of the baseball world forgot how bad the Braves were to close last season. Kinda got swept under the rug behind the Red Sox’ chicken and beer fiasco.

8:06- Werth steps up to the plate and were off.

8:08- Every time Bryce Harper steps up to the plate i always stop what I’m doing. Even if I’m looking at a game-cast on my iphone, I frantically refresh the page with hopes of a home run or extra base hit…. as he grounds out to Simmons for the second out.

8:11- “Strasburg shutdown” in back to back sentences from Shulman bringing our count to 5. Zimmerman lines one in to right field for the first hit of the ball game. Quick tangent: Is it just me or are one team athletes the rarest thing in sports nowadays. Even franchise quarterbacks with years of history and loyalty to a team are given the boot with the excuse that the league is a business and nothing else ( see Manning, Peyton). Zimmerman is locked up in DC til 2019 at least and has no intentions of leaving. Hes the reincarnation of Ripken minus the ridiculous durability.

8:12- “Strasburg and Harper are the most well known players” (6).

8:14- Michael Bourn is in a contract year and is playing arguably his best season. Mike Rizzo, Nats GM, expressed intrest in the outfielder during several interviews this season. AWKWARD.

8:17- The Braves hitters probably have the best two-strike approaches since the 07′ Red Sox, a team notorious for their long at-bats and extraordinarily long games.

8:20- Stoned asian in a white tall tee and cargo shorts makes what is probably the highlight of his month, listing slightly to the left and making a phenomenal catch on a Reed Johnson foul ball down the right field line. Did I mention his navajo dreads? Imagine if Troy Polamalu braided his locks and then let them grow for like 4 days. Yeah.. that long.

8:23- I can’t decide if Jason Heyward is the next Alfonso Soriano or the next Joe Carter. Either way kid can ball. My future rankings with absolutely  no statistics to back them up ….. 1.Harper 2.Giancarlo Stanton 3.Matt Kemp/Heyward 4. Big Mike Trout

8:24- Chipper steps in for his first AB of the night. How fucked up is it going to be when he comes back and plays in the American League next year as a DH for the Rangers instead of retiring. No competitor, unless they were on drugs or forced at gunpoint, retires until they absolutely have to. Coming into this game he is hitting .296 with 14 home runs and 59 rbis. Does that sound like washed up and ready to leave behind the game you love? NO! I think its ridiculous that some ballparks have honored him with video montages, surfboards, and other gifts. Like hes goddamn Joe DiMaggio or something. I say he comes back. Jones grounds out to end the 1st. One hit for both sides.

8:34- Looking back on the past few months of consumption, the Doritos Locos Tacos are only good if you are intoxicated. I don’t think there is that much of a difference between eating doritos with bean dip and cheese and grass in between. But of course if you’re hammered, a $1.70 is worth as much as the lead in a mechanical pencil. Plus you dont have to find the grass once you are at the restaurant.

8:38- Freddie Freeman could be a stunt double for the lead singer of Smash Mouth, Steve Harwell. Their facial characteristics and mannerisms are uncanny.

8:40- Dan Uggla has the fattest lip I think I have ever seen in his left cheek. I wonder what brand/what flavor? With the exception of one of my former baseball coaches,who will remain nameless, that is the largest amount of chewing tobacco I’ve ever seen someone spit on television. I thought Selig was cracking down on players dipping? Anyway, I think he should be overseas with the marines. Have u seen the forearms on this dude? Takes a walk after a Freeman strikeout.

8:42- Strasburg count has risen to 7. Give the kid a break. He’d be out there if he could. And i applaud the balls that Davey Johnson and Mike Rizzo had in shutting him down. Gotta protect your investment. It is a business nowadays anyway…

8:46- Gonzalez walks Ross to put two on with two out as Minor steps to the plate. Gio’s thrown 45 pitches thus far. Gotta knock that total down a little to be effective in the playoffs.

8:49- Gonzalez strikes out his opposing pitcher to end the inning. Still no score here at Turner Field.

8:52- If you had told me that Oakland and Baltimore would be leading the AL Wild Card spots with close to three weeks left in the season I probably would have laughed in your face. By no means are they in a position run away with their respective leads but, still it’s pretty impressive. Especially considering how the O’s have been outscored by 22 runs by their opponents this season. Gotta love baseball.

8:57- Harper lines out to left field to end the inning after strikeouts by Gonzalez and Werth. Still no score.

9:02- Bourn leads off the inning with a base knock. Johnson lines out hard to Desmond shortly after.

9:07- I’m starting to notice that the better players in baseball are wearing their socks up nowadays. Heyward pops a single by LaRoche and Bourn advances to third. Huge AB coming up for the fan-favorite Chipper. All of his plate appearances this year remind me of Rob Redford in The Natural.

9:10- Gio is coming right at him as we reach a two-two count. 70 pitches thrown.

9:11- Three-two count. Seventh for Gio. The crowd is on their feet..

9:13- And of course, Chipper knocks an RBI single into the left-center gap. Here comes the unbelievably racist and also unoriginal “Tomahawk Chop”. Where have i seen this before?

9:15- OH SHIT… I forgot the 49ers and Lions were on tonight. Looks like my first diary is going bi-racial. How fitting.. I’ll flip over to NBC once the inning is over. Another three-two count for Gio as Freeman takes the 78th pitch. You guys are in luck. two for one Sunday!

9:17- Freeman scores Heyward on a sac fly. Craig Stammen begin warming-up in the Nats’ bullpen.

9:18- Strasburg count is at 8

9:19- Gonzalez strikes out Uggla to end the inning. Braves 2- Nats 0… Now for some football…

9:20- I love the 49ers so much (Sorry Ben)! Funnest team to watch in the NFL if you love defense. And how their special teams dances together on kickoffs? I think it’s at least some what intimidating for the other team. And how they returned close to all 22 starters for this season? Gotta love great football. I’m rooting for the Harbaugh brothers to make it to the Super Bowl this year. That is if RG3 doesn’t lead the Skins’ to glory (Hah).

9:21- Not to mention two of their best players, Aldon and Justin Smith are Mizzou alumns…. M-I-Z… anyone?

9:22- Everytime I hear Javhid Best’s name I think of his concussion at Cal. “Epic”.

9:23- Back to baseball. Zimmerman works a three-one count before spraying another base hit into right field to lead of the inning.

9:26- Espinosa grounds in to a double play after a LaRoche fly-out and a Desmond single to end the  top of the inning. Braves 2- Nats 0

9:28- Flip back to NBC to hear my man, Randy “Straight Ca$h Homie” Moss, make a first down completion. So glad this man is back and playing for a contender. Check out my section of First Pick for a feature on Moss’s career written around his “retirement” last season.

9:30- Literally just said, “Suh is probably trying to keep a low profile this year”, as he makes a sack on Alex Smith for a loss of at least eight yards. Simultaenously, Gio works two quick outs to start the bottom of the fourth.

9:32- Gio strikes out Minor to end the fourth inning. Braves still up two. Pitch count: Gonzalez(92), Minor (48).

9:36- Some incredibly vague and incoherent words are spoken from Braves manager about Chipper Jones.

9:38- Terry Francona’s Montreal Expo’s rookie card is displayed as a segway into the topic of franchise relocation. Shulman lists off the remaining and unsensational Expos in the majors, of which there are 11 if I heard him correctly.

9:40- 22 of the 25 players on the current Nationals roster came up with their farm system or were acquired during Rizzo’s tenure. Thats money-ball for ya.

9:42- Werth ends the inning on an unceremonious ground ball to second. To the bottom of the fifth we go.

9:45- HAH! Its apparently bark-in-the-park night at Turner Field. Fans have brought their dogs to the game with them. Does anyone agree with me that this is the most ridiculously unplanned event in a baseball park since Disco Demolition Night at  Comiskey Park in 79′? Who is going to pick up the after the animals. Plus its raining lightly. So they are going to smell. I know this is common in other parks but come on… really. Just give out bobbleheads or bags or lower your beer prices. I guarantee you’ll have better customer satisfaction. Heyward grounds out to end the inning. Braves 2- Nats 0.

9:51-Harper leads off the inning as Buster Olney presents the viewer voting for the NL Cy Young. Apparently Gio is the favorite. To be determined..

9:53- Harper smashes a ground ruled double on one-two count. This kid is a show-stopper. The rain comes down harder. The fans look for their doggie umbrellas.

9:57- After a swinging strikeout from Zimmerman, LaRoche grounds out to second and Harper advances to third.

10:00- As we enter the tenth hour, Desmond hits a strong blooper (if there is such a thing) off the handle of his bat into center, scoring Harper. Braves 2- Nats 1.

10:02- Desmond gets caught leaning and is thrown out at second.

10:06- Gonzalez walks Chipper to lead off the sixth. The rain is starting to become a factor. Freeman then blasts a double off the wall in right-center. Second and third no outs. Gonzalez gets the hook from Davey. Stammen exits the bullpen onto the field. Looks like Gio’s quest for 20 wins will have to wait another few days.

10:11- Seriously these dogs are about to smell like wet garbage. You have to wonder  if the Umps will want a delay.

10:17- Stammen masterfully throws his slider. Gets Uggla, Ross, and Simmons in order. Braves 2- Nats 1 going into the seventh

10:20- Orel Hershiser celebrates his 54th birthday with Franconca and Shulman. Awkwardly blows out candles and shakes hands of peers. Happy birthday Orel. You cheeky bastard. Braves groundscrew eagerly works away on the diamond. The rain is dying out slightly.

10:27- Nats’ go quietly with Cory Gearrin relieving Minor of his duties. Tight game going into the bottom of the seventh.

10:29- I have seen the Firestone “We are a car company that doesn’t make cars. We are a tire company” at least eight times tonight. Didn’t their tires cause a string of accidents in the early 2000s? Seems just as phony as every Obama/Romney campaign commercial. Stammen takes the hill for the Nats and gets Eric Hinske to flyout to center.

10:33- Shulman reports that Chris Carpenter, ace of the St. Louis Cardinals, will return later in the week for the rest of the season. More bad news for Pirates fans. Not that they’ve had any good news since McCutchen got drafted. Bourn walks.

10:38- Zimmerman takes a tricky hop allowing Bourn to reach third on what would’ve been a double play ball. First and third with one out as Heyward walks to the batter’s box. Sean Burnett relieves Stammen.God only knows what Martin Prado would be doing tonight.

10:42- LaRoche takes a gamble by getting the sure out at first and fires an off-line throw home that allows Bourn to score. Braves 3- Nats 1.

10:46- After an intentional walk to Chipper, Burnett hits Freeman in the ass to load the bases. Still two outs.

10:48- Uggla rips a base hit, scoring two and Freeman is thrown out at third on a cut-off by Zimmerman. Braves 5- Nats 1. LaRoche has got to be punching himself in the dick after that half inning. Hindsight is always 20/20.

10:51- Another Taco Bell thought… Your slogan is “Live Más” which translates to “live more” in English. Just out of curiosity, who in the world at the T-bell corporate office came into a meeting and said “I have this brilliant idea for our new marketing campaign..we are going to get a renowned chef to tell us what ingrediens make Chipotle successful then have her be the spokesperson for our new menu item, based completely off of Chipotle’s bread and butter, and advertise it with a Spanish word to make it seem more exotic (not that many people speak Spanish anymore right) and follow up with a taco made out of old doritos to get every stoner and binge drinking teenager more attracted to our cheap junk.” Probably a very rich man. I do enjoy ripping Taco Bell in my diaries FYI. But I can’t deny that the crunch-wrap supreme is our greatest accomplishment since the moon landing.

10:56- Strasburg Count to 10. Shulman and Orel criticize Davey for his decision using the Braves handling Kris Medlen’s tommy john surgery.

10:58- Nats go down in order. Braves 5- Nats 1. Five hits respectively.

11:00- Do Drew Storen and Gio share the same necklace. Or are they friendship chains?

11:01- I may only be saying this as Virginia native and a Nationals fan but, I honestly believe if we had Drew Storen from game one to now he would have better numbers than Braves closer Craig Kimbrel. Call me bias and call me crazy but, Drew’s special.

11:04- Storen throws an eight pitch, three up-three-down inning and we head to the top of the ninth. Nats lead off with Zimmerman followed by LaRoche and Desmond.                       Braves 5- Nats 1.

11:07- Is it just me or is dubstep taking over the commercial industry? Every car commercial, with the exception of truck commercials, incorporates some type of techno music.

11:08- Zimmerman lines out to short for the first out of the ninth.

11:10- After LaRoche singles, Desmond pops up to Freeman for the second out. Steven Lombardozzi pinch hits for Espinosa.

11:13- Lombardozzi strikes out to end the game and the Nationals hope of 90 wins. Minor takes the win, Gio takes the loss. The Braves sweep the Nats in their final series of the season and sit five and a half games back of Washington for NL East lead.

FINAL Braves 5- Nationals-1

Final Strasburg Mentions= 10


By Matt Fehr








Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

Faith in Haith by Matt Fehr

One of the most overwhelming things to cope with in the overall scheme of life is being told you are not capable of accomplishing something. Even the strongest of minds can wither at the expectation of failure from a vast majority. A person’s reaction to these criticisms will determine how the rest of their life will play out. One can conform to their detractors each time, accept failure and ultimately live a lifetime as an underachiever. The alternative, however, is considerably more rewarding. One can also make the decision to persevere. For when somebody succeeds despite low expectations and extreme doubt, they are labeled as “great.” Their triumphs are glorified and the work that was sacrificed to be successful is given significance. These are the overachievers of the world.

Missouri’s head basketball coach, Frank Haith, is such an overachiever.

When Haith accepted the position at Mizzou last year, following the departure of Mike Anderson (who returned to Arkansas where he had been an assistant early in his career), it was under more scrutiny than any coach in recent memory. During his seven years at the University of Miami he sported a 43-69 conference record with one NCAA tournament appearance and was one of the last candidates that Missouri had even considered for the vacancy. In August, a mere three months before his first season at Mizzou began, he was linked to the Nevin Shapiro “pay for play” scandal in which one of Haith’s assistants at Miami accepted money to heavily pursue several big name high school recruits.

Not only was he under investigation by the NCAA, he inherited a team that had 12 upperclassmen that were all recruited by Anderson and were accustomed to his “40 Minutes of Hell” style of play in which players play an extremely up-tempo fast break offense combined with aggravating defensive pressure. While Haith vowed to keep some of these aspects in tact, it is difficult to obtain a team that had spent so many years under one style of play and make them your own. Rarely do coaches succeed under these circumstances and it usually takes a year or so for a staff to make headway with their players.

The amount of backlash that took place at the university after Haith’s hiring was considerable. Tiger alumni, students, faculty all bashed athletic director Mike Alden for failing to land Purdue head coach Matt Painter who many deemed as the successor to Anderson. The widespread belief was that the players would resist Haith’s staff and try to play basketball the way they had in previous years, which would have greatly depleted team chemistry. It didn’t help that the team’s chief defensive threat in the paint, Laurence Bowers, was lost for the season with a torn ACL a month before the season began. There was no optimism and little if any support for how the team would perform this year.

Haith decided to persevere.

Through 27 games, he has the Tigers off to a 25-2 record, the best the school has seen in almost two decades and are 3-0 against teams ranked in the top 10. They are shooting 50.3% from the field, the second best in the nation, and average 79.9 points a game, the seventh best in the nation.

In a game against the California Golden Bears, ranked 18th at the time, the Tigers won by a convincing 39 points, scoring 92 points in the process. In an interview with ESPN’s Jason King, Missouri senior guard/forward Kim English described the change in team chemistry.

“This is the best I’ve felt in my four years, because it’s the most selfless team I’ve played on,” English said. “We’re all 10 guys, plus three transfers — we’re buying into the process every day.”

Mizzou is undefeated at home and is poised to make a run in not only the Big 12 tournament but, the big dance at the end of March.

Could it be that Mizzou’s senior leadership wanted to make a statement to the coach who left them in their last years at the university? It’s a possibility.

Could it be that Anderson recruited a team that was most dangerous when it added a half court offense to its repertoire? Perhaps.

But this team’s success ultimately has to do with Haith’s ability to handle adversity.

Haith’s ability to handle all the pessimists and criticisms of the team he was taking on has him as a contender for coach of the year in the NCAA. He holds the players’ pulse and has them playing with more teamwork than before. He preaches a message of accountability and never doubting yourself. The players show love for the game and respect his values. Suddenly, Mizzou Arena is rocking as loud as Cameron Indoor with students camping out days before big games just to assure a seat in the student section.

“Success is not owned. It’s rented, and you have to pay rent every day.’ I live my life like that. I work every day like I’m going to be fired tomorrow”, Haith said in an interview with ESPN columnist Dana O’Neil.

Anderson, ironically, took over a team that only has four upperclassmen and is currently unranked with 17-10 record. Although he gets the opportunity to grow with another set of players, he has to deal with the growing pains of having a young roster and also must wonder what could have been. He has to think about how this season would have played out if he had stayed with his players at Missouri and how it would have felt to have success with the six seniors he recruited. However, he still expresses love for the team he left.

“Those kids are part of my family. They will be for the rest of my life,” said Anderson in an interview with SB Nation. “Obviously they were hurt and even when you talk about some of the fans. Why? When I got there, there was not a lot of empathy about the program. Now there are feelings about it and I understand that. But I’m so excited for those guys. They’re going to do great things.”

Jim Larranaga, who led the George Mason Patriots to a Final Four appearance in 2006, replaced Haith at Miami, is doing similarly well despite being in the basketball super-conference ACC. The Hurricanes are off to a 16-9 record and defeated Duke at home in overtime earlier in the year.

Frank Haith’s first season at Missouri is a prime example of the rewarding feelings that are associated with succeeding under doubt. He was given virtually no shot to succeed before he even set foot on campus. And the negativity that came with his history has been completely erased because he took on the challenge. He looked his critics in the face and proved them wrong. His tenure at Mizzou is, for the time being at least, labeled as “great,” and he is doing so with extreme class.

The future for the currently ranked no. 3 Tigers is to be determined but, the sky is the limit. They take on Kansas State at home Tuesday night (Feb. 21) before heading across the border Saturday night (Feb. 25) to play what could be their last conference game against archrival Kansas (Mizzou is heading to the Southeast Conference next season). There was little confidence in the months leading up to the season but now it seems as though Missouri fans have faith in Haith.

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

Lin Meets World

Super Lintendo. Mr. Lincredible. Qui-Gon Lin.

Whatever you want to call him, Jeremy Lin is gaining more media coverage right now than Tebowing and the Kardashian family combined. I’ll admit that I’m a fan of what the kid is doing. And if you aren’t, there is something wrong with you. Who doesn’t love an underdog story? America is an underdog country founded by underdog patriots who put together an underdog government and overcame tremendous odds to force it’s way as a super power in the global scheme of things. If Jeremy Lin’s story doesn’t touch you in some way your probably a robot (or even worse: a communist).

However, I will admit that with the amount of air time Linsanity gets on my favorite network, ESPN, I am definitely starting to get tired of seeing his face and listening to roundtable discussions about whether his play will continue or whether he will be able to coexist with Melo’ or whether the Knicks can make a playoff run. Seeing so many close ups of Landry Fields, Amare Stoudamire’s stubble patches, and Mike D’Antoni’s mustache have made me more disgusted with my screen than the swarms of people that paid to see “Man On a Ledge” in theaters. Ironically, these close-ups were my inspiration for this article.

One morning several days ago I found myself staring intently into the face of the “Italian stallion” that is D’Antoni and found myself wondering, “how in the world does this man keep his mustache so finely trimmed?” One would believe his wife lovingly purchased him a Philips Norelco or Conair hair trimmer for his birthday or Christmas or something but, seriously it is one of the finest mustaches in recent memory. Seriously, see for yourself. 

Not only is it a great stache’, but it eerily resembles the grey stache’/hair combo sported by one William Daniels, or through the eyes of any 90s born teenager, a character named George Feeny from ABC’s sitcom “Boy Meets World”.

As soon as my train of thought brought me to this conclusion, my mind began to wander, “I wonder if the stallion is any good at acting”, and then to, “How funny would it be to see him in a pair of thin brimmed glasses mentoring the likes of Corey and Shawn from the other side of the fence in the Matthews’ yard”.

Then it dawned on me, especially with all this attention being place on Lin, it would not be THAT crazy to place each of Lin’s teammates beside him in an animated sitcom that could air on ESPN in their 4:30 time slot instead of Dan Lebatard’s 30 minute disaster that he is currently running in place on Jim Rome with his Hispanic father.

Seriously how hilarious would that be? Imagine a cartoon montage of Jeremy Lin traveling around New York City in a rickshaw taking pictures in front of the Empire State Building, or surfing down the Statue of Liberty, or even climbing Trump Tower in a gorilla costume. Tell me that you would not take time out of your day to watch that show especially if they cast real voices and actually had hilarious plot lines. Sure as hell would be funnier than the “the Cleveland Show”. I even thought of characteristics for each character:

Jeremy: The shows protagonist who is soft spoken yet, incredibly charismatic. He puts up with the antics of the New York media and he is constantly antagonized by Spike Lee and feels bad when he says no to his ridiculous requests and gifts.

Landry Fields: Jeremy’s best friend and alcoholic who occasionally gets too wasted and makes unnecessary passes at what he thinks are attractive women and makes poor choices (I imagine an episode or two where he tries to hookup with Lebron or D-Rose accidentally or calls David Stern to tell him “how he really feels” about his management styles). He claims that Jeremy and himself make Batman and Robin despite underachieving significantly.

Melo’: The selfish superstar who is constantly jealous of Jeremy no matter what he does. He consistently attempts to get back at him for stealing the spotlight in New York and wants nothing more than to get rid Jeremy and his followers. And did I mention he’s also incredibly overweight.

Amare: The astoundingly dimwitted oaf who provides nothing but, comedic relief. Seriously what other role could he play?

Tyson: The swag machine. I imagine him speaking similarly to Barry White and wearing lavish clothing at peculiar times. His vocabulary expands as far as Randy Jackson’s does and he is the ultimate ladies man

Bill Walker/Mike Bibby/Iman Shumpert/Toney Douglas/Jared Jefferies/etc: Bow to Lin every time they are in his presence. They see Jeremy as Elvis and treat him accordingly. They give him shotgun, first in the cafeteria line, offer up their girlfriends, and refer to him as sir no matter what the circumstances are.

D’Antoni: The wise man/ mentor. The oracle. He provides wisdom to Jeremy on top of a mountain that I envision having many stairs somewhere in the Himalayas.

Baron Davis: See above.

Spike Lee: The over enthusiastic suck-up who claims to have had faith in Jeremy ever since he was in high school. He goes out of his way to befriend Jeremy and offers him trips abroad, expensive dinners, invites to exclusive parties, and even buys him a car just so Jeremy shows him respect.His height is exaggerated as well and his glasses are bigger than his head.

Tell me I’m not crazy. If I pitched this idea to ESPN’s headquarters in Los Angeles or in Bristol they could develop it and actually make it work. They have never tackled the field of animation I think this would be great way to start. I think it would get a better following than any Tebow movie or tv show. Besides it would give them more time to talk about Peyton Manning’s future with the Colts, Andrew Luck’s draft potential, Blake Griffins dunking ability, or the most recent alley-oop from the Miami Heat, the things that apparently all of America’s sports fans care about…

If you have any ideas for this sitcom which I am currently in the process of patenting, please comment below or shoot us an email.

By Matt Fehr

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

Rollercoaster: The rises and falls of Randy Moss

Career Highlights of Randy Moss, youtubeOn August 1st, 2011, the National Football League said goodbye to one of the most controversial players to ever play professional American sports. In an unusually short message to the NFL and the NFL Players Association, Joel Segal, the agent of the provocative yet, accomplished wide receiver Randy Moss, announced that his client no longer desired to play football after virtually no franchises offered him a contract.

Not only was Moss bidding farewell to his profession, he was prematurely ending his run as arguably one the greatest athletes of our generation.

Despite the negative connotations one can make about Moss’s career on and off the field, the man set NCAA and NFL records in receiving and when motivated to his full potential can outrun anyone with the exception of Usain Bolt even now at the tender age of 35. His height and speed put him in consideration for the greatest receiver of all-time alongside Jerry Rice.

He has given defensive backs and coordinators fits since his high school days in Belle, West Virginia where he won back-to-back state championships as a wide-out, safety, returner, and kicker. Not to mention he was basketball player of the year in West Virginia twice, broke records in track and field in his one season with the team, and played centerfield for the baseball team. It was obvious that he was gifted and it was not long before every Division 1-A school in the country wanted him to commit to their program.

Unfortunately in 1995, after being charged with misdemeanor battery and serving time in jail for a fight at his high school, Moss was declined the opportunity to play football at his dream school in Notre Dame. Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden, known for his aptitude in dealing with players with troubled pasts, gave Moss a chance and offered him a scholarship at the university.

Probation and a disciplined coach would set him straight right?

Moss then tested positive for smoking pot while on probation and he was sentenced to 60 days in jail in addition to getting dismissed from the football team. After time behind bars, he transferred to Marshall which was closer to home and allowed him to play immediately because of their Division 1-AA status.

Obviously playing against inferior competition Moss broke several 1-AA touchdown records as a freshman at Marshall and in his sophomore season, the Thundering Herd joined Division 1-A where he set the NCAA record for touchdowns in a season. He finished his sophomore season 4th in the Heisman voting and was awarded the Biletnikoff trophy presented to the nations top receiver.

Moss would have gone higher in the draft but, many NFL scouts were worried about his maturity and the distractions that came along with his talents. He slipped to 21st overall in 1998 NFL draft and was selected by the Minnesota Vikings, a team in desperate need of a deep threat to stretch their passing game.

And it turned out that this immature convict was just what the doctor ordered. Moss helped the Vikings achieve a 15-1 record touting the number one offense in the league while Moss himself set a rookie touchdown record with 17 scores easily earning the Offensive Rookie of the Year and Pro Bowl starting honors.

The Vikes then drafted quarterback Daunte Culpepper out of Central Florida who sported a superhuman arm and uncanny scrambling ability which complimented Moss’s game better than ever before. The two would make one the most memorable tandems to ever play the game despite never making it past the NFC Championship Game.

In 2001, Moss became the highest paid receiver in NFL history, a record which stands to this day. Moss was signed to an 8 year, $75 million contract with a $10 million signing bonus, including $8 million in guarantees. All the money most likely got to his head as he only caught 10 touchdown passes and the Vikings missed the playoffs with a 6-10 record.

Moss made the Pro Bowl 5 out of his 7 season with the Vikings but, was traded to the Oakland Raiders at the end of the 2005 season after several leg injuries decreased his production and after his continued negligence for authority. In 2002, he allegedly bumped into a traffic officer with his car before making an illegal turn and spent the night in jail after a joint was found in his vehicle. In a 2004 game against the Washington Redskins, Moss walked off the field with 2 seconds remaining on the clock and was criticized for quitting on his team. He also tested positive for marijuana several times under the NFL’s substance abuse program and frequently advocated the drug’s usage.

The Vikings received a 1st round draft pick and linebacker Napoleon Harris in return for a player that many teams still saw as useful. He did virtually nothing for the Raiders, due to his continued injuries and speculative disinterest. Rumors circulated that Moss wasn’t performing simply because his heart wasn’t in the franchise he had been traded to. There were many players who called Moss a coward and believed that he was no longer motivated to add more tools to his game.

Perhaps he had gotten too cocky. Maybe his hubris prevented him from taking the field and giving a 100 percent effort. Maybe he smoked a ton of weed from time to time. Maybe he quit on his teammates and only cared about himself.

But, when the New England Patriots traded for him in the early morning before the 2007 NFL draft, Moss was motivated. Motivated more than he had ever been motivated in his entire life. Bill Belicheck has a way with his players and something he said to Moss when he was traded from Oakland inspired him. Although he missed all of the preseason with another hamstring injury, he broke out in his first game of the season catching 9 receptions for 151 yard and a touchdown and didn’t stop from there. Him and Tom Brady made history that season not only with their 16-0 record but, they set the single season records for touchdowns at their respective positions. I’m sure we all know how the rest of that season turned out (Cough, Cough Eli). Moss was irrelevant in the playoffs as teams doubled and even tripled teamed in zone coverages.

Every single one of Moss’s cUatches were highlight reel worthy as he embarrassed the NFL’s best secondarys with his explosiveness and deer-like agility. Many of these receptions, with the help of NFL films, will go down alongside the likes of Lynn Swann, Jerry Rice, Marvin Harrison, and other NFL greats in the Pantheon of football.

Brady suffered a torn ACL the following year, but this did not stop Moss’s renaissance. He still managed to clip 11 scores for 1,008 yards and in the next year scored 13 times for 1,264 yards. However 2010 proved to be disastrous yet again for him. After he did not receive a contract extension going the season, he told reporters that he felt “unwanted” and after his 1st game he claimed he would be leaving the Patriots after the season. A few weeks later, New England traded him back to his “beloved” Minnesota where he stayed for four weeks before getting into a dispute with then coach Brad Childress over his coaching style and handling of players. Moss was waived without prior warning and was claimed by the Tennesse Titans where he had career lows in receptions and yards. The Titans decided not to retain Moss’s contract for the 2011 campaign.

It’s amazing how some players can simply turn their skill sets on and off like a light switch. Really plays off the whole you can do anything if you put your mind to it concept doesn’t it? For instance, in Minnesota, Moss was motivated by all the teams who were worried about the issues he’d bring to their franchise and passed on him simply to avoid wasting money in a player that they believed would be out of the league in a few years for some stupid crime he committed. He was portrayed as a delinquent and that image drove him to prove the doubters wrong. Moss went on a rampage and when everyone realized that they should have drafted him and realized his greatness, he resulted back to his old habits: selfishness, rebelliousness, and overall stupidity. Then when the Vikings got tired of dealing with his shit they shipped him off to Oakland where he did not want to play AT ALL and continued down the road of mediocrity that characterizes the most depressing of people. And when all seemed lost for this man, one of the greatest coaches of all-time decided, “I can fix him. I know how to get his motor running. Brady needs a big play guy like this,” and trades for him. Moss obviously liked the prospect of being on the best team of the decade with one of the best quarterbacks in the game with one of the greatest coaches ever so he was motivated yet again to exemplify his talents. Only to have this amazing present that was given ripped out of his hands because he couldn’t keep his mouth shut. His act got old and he found himself out of work this past season in what is becoming the golden age for NFL quarterbacks.

What NFL fan doesn’t want to see Randy Moss outrunning defenders for long touchdowns on Sundays?

A few days ago, on his 35th birthday, Moss announced to the world that he would like to return to football and would pursue an NFL contract with his agent. If this man has any wits whatsoever he will keep his mouth shut from here on out and thank whatever general manager that gives him a tryout on his hands and knees. He did say that he had some things to reflect on and that he missed the game too much which is good but, only time can tell if he really meant that statement and if he has actually changed for the better. Maybe he’ll show up and blow away defenses like he did only a few years ago when he was motivated to be all he could be. Or maybe he’ll sign with Browns or the Jaguars or (please god, no) the Redskins and provide the same cancerous effect he has the past few times around.

What happens with Moss will happen, but one thing is for sure. If he plans on being relevant he is going to have to change his schema more than he ever has in his entire life if he plans on making in this world. And for the sake of football lets hope he does.


By Matt Fehr